EXCLUSIVE: It may have taken him 15 years to get there, but Edward Norton will star in and direct Motherless Brooklyn, his scripted adaptation inspired by the Jonathan Lethem novel. Brett Ratner and James Packer’s RatPac Entertainment have stepped up to fully finance the film for a late 2014 production start in New York. Ratner will join Norton and his Class 5 Films’ cohort William Migliore as producers, and Packer will be executive producer with Class 5’s Stuart Blumberg.
While Lethem’s novel is contemporary, Norton has set the story in New York in 1954, a time of great change in the city. He plays Lionel Essrog, a lonely private detective afflicted with Tourette’s syndrome, who tries to solve the murder of his mentor and only friend. Armed only with few clues and an obsessive mind, Lionel slowly unravels closely guarded secrets that have major ramifications. It leads him through Harlem jazz clubs, Brooklyn slums and sets him against thugs and Gotham power brokers to honor his friend and save a woman who might his own salvation.
This will be Norton’s second time behind the camera after he made his debut on Keeping The Faith. He set this up at New Line as the book was published, right after Norton got an Oscar nomination there for his mesmerizing performance in American History X. Norton currently stars in the Wes Anderson-directed The Grand Budapest Hotel, and most recently wrapped the Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu-directed comedy Birdman, both for Fox Searchlight. He’s repped by UTA and attorney Robert Offer.
“We all know Edward Norton is one of the most compelling actors of our generation, but I also know he’s an exceptional writer and filmmaker,” said Ratner, who directed Norton in the 2002 adaptation of the Thomas Harris novel Red Dragon. “As soon as I read his script for Motherless Brooklyn I knew this was a project I wanted to get involved with and am thrilled to partner up with Edward and Class 5. Edward’s script has melded elements of Jonathan Lethem’s terrific novel with an original story that at once feels classic and entirely fresh. And with Edward playing Lionel Essrog, the brilliant private detective with Tourette’s Syndrome, this will be a tour de force performance.”